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Nutrition News: Weight and Cancer Risk

Charlyn Fargo on

We all know being overweight or obese isn't healthy. In fact, most of us have tried - at some point in our lives -- to shed a few extra pounds. A recent look at weight and its effect on cancer should encourage all of us to keep trying.

Many people think that whether or not you get cancer is just luck of the draw. Or, that your chances are determined by genes you inherit from your parents. Being overweight or obese increases the risk for several types of cancer, including cancers of the colon, rectum, endometrium, liver, kidney, breast (in postmenopausal women), gallbladder, pancreas, and some parts of the stomach, ovary and esophagus. Obesity also raises the risk for developing advanced prostate cancer, according to Dr. Anne McTiernan with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash.

But the good news is that some of these so-called "obesity-related" cancers can be prevented. It's never too late to reduce your risk for these cancers. When researchers followed people who intentionally lost weight, they discovered that weight loss reduced risk for breast and other cancers, particularly in women.

Tiermann and colleagues conducted a series of clinical studies, assigning people by chance to weight loss diets, exercise programs, or control groups. They found that reducing weight through either diet or exercise significantly lowers the following cancer risk factors:

--Estrogens and testosterone, which are risk factors for breast and endometrial cancers.

--Inflammation-related proteins, which increase risk for colon and other cancers.

--Proteins that control growth of blood vessels. By lowering these, tumors would have less nourishment to grow.

--Insulin, glucose, and related metabolic factors, which if left unchecked, cause overgrowth of many cells including tumor cells

--Oxidative stress, which results in normal cells being attacked, possibly inciting a cell to turn cancerous.

--Proteins made in fat tissue, which have been associated with increased cancer risk.

The amount of weight needed was not high -- losing just 5 percent of starting weight had a big effect. So, for a person weighing 200 pounds at the start of the study, losing 10 pounds produced a beneficial effect.

The diet was simple -- counting calories and reducing fat intake. Researchers found that participants who wrote down everything they ate, prepared their own meals, and didn't skip meals lost the greatest amount of weight. They also found that exercise by itself produced little weight loss, but that regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise provided additional weight loss benefits when added to the diet program.

The bottom line? It's never too late to make health-improving changes. Start with a goal of losing 10 pounds. You might just dodge the cancer bullet.

Recipe

We're all looking for that quick recipe to get a healthy dinner on the table for the family. Try this Chicken Stir-Fry recipe from Tufts University.

Orange Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast halves or chicken tenders, trimmed and cut into thin slices

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided

1 1/2 cups frozen pepper stir-fry vegetables (onions & bell peppers)

1 tablespoons minced ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 cups frozen broccoli florets

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Combine orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and hot pepper sauce in a glass measure. Place chicken in medium bowl or shallow glass dish. Add 2 tablespoons of the orange juice mixture; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add cornstarch to remaining orange juice mixture; mix with a fork or whisk until smooth. Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until hot. Drain the chicken and add to the pan; stir-fry until lightly browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to skillet. Add pepper stir-fry vegetables, ginger and garlic; stir-fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli and stir for a few seconds. Add the 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook until broccoli is heated through and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Push vegetables to perimeter of pan. Stir reserved marinade to redistribute cornstarch; add to pan. Cook, stirring sauce in center, until sauce boils and thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir vegetables toward center of skillet and add reserved chicken. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serves 2 (1 1/4 cup) servings. Serve over brown rice if desired.

Per serving: 350 calories, 30 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 12 g sugars, 15 g fat, 3 g fiber, 570 mg sodium.

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Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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